Sports Finance Report: Ashley Cole on EPL vs MLS
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Ashley Cole Discusses Differences Between Premier League and MLS
Former Chelsea FC star Ashley Cole was in NYC this week as part of the club’s global outreach program. The EPL club has made a year-round grassroots commitment to the FC Harlem Lions; assisting with both their school and athlete engagement programs. On Tuesday, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection joined FC Harlem and Chelsea FC in announcing plans for a new $3.5 million project. Plans include a covered soccer field, a first for grassroots soccer in New York, on DEP property; adjacent to the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant. JWS had the exclusive opportunity to talk with English futbol legend.
JWS: The median MLS player salary during the 2017 season was $135,000. Do any of your teammates have second jobs?
Cole: Maybe they do work 2 jobs which I don’t think is right. They need to be fully concentrated on playing soccer. MLS needs to look at that (league median salary) and increase that, because it is not just about the old veteran guys coming over and getting paid a lot of money; I think if they (MLS) want to improve, pay these lower paid guys a little bit more.
JWS: You left money on the table leaving Europe. Why did you choose to come to play in MLS?
Cole: If you look at my salary compared to others, it’s not as big; but I’m comfortable because I still love to play soccer. It was a time in my career where I was getting older and even though I had other options to stay in Europe, I chose MLS because I wanted to see how it has developed and just to experience it here. I love the fan base here, it’s crazy. It’s getting bigger. It’s something I’ve always kind of had in my plan, to play in the MLS.
JWS: The EPL generates far more money than MLS. Can you discuss some of the disadvantages MLS players have from a resource standpoint?
Cole: When you are traveling 5 hours for a game, plus sitting in the airport for 2 hours and you don’t go on a charter, which players in Europe are kind of used to. Then getting off the plane and training that night; and then playing the next day is difficult. There have been times where I couldn’t play because I’ve had a bad back because we sat in an airport for 3 hours and had a 5-hour flight. It’s difficult for foreign players, we’re not used to that.
JWS: Do you think the U.S. missing the 2018 World Cup will set the sport back in America?
Cole: Hopefully it’s just a phase for this tournament. If you look at the other big countries that didn’t make it, do you say the same about them? I don’t think so. I just think they didn’t play well in the group stages and they got punished. I’ve been on an England team that didn’t make it to a Euro or a World Cup, it’s difficult. They have good young players coming through. MLS is growing. Hopefully they can regroup, get together and don’t think “it’s the end of the world”. Now to push on, improve as players and get ready for the next tournament.
Howie Long-Short: Ashley wasn’t exaggerating when saying, “If you look at my salary compared to others, it’s not as big.” The L.A. Galaxy player earns just $6,700/week playing in MLS; while Kaka receives $144,875/week from Orlando City, Toronto FC is paying Sebastian Giovinco $143,500/week and NYC FC star Andrea Pirlo gets $118,850/week. Cole may not be making a fortune in MLS, but he amassed one during his 20-year career. It’s estimated that his net worth is north of $22 million.
Fan Marino: The MLS Players Association is going to demand chartered flights in the next round of CBA negotiations, but that isn’t until 2020. Until then, there is a competitive advantage to be head for owners willing to invest in their team; just one MLS team had a road record above .500 last season. It’s been estimated that chartering flights would increase team costs by over $1 million/season.
ESPN Fantasy Games Set All-Time Usage Records
ESPN’s fantasy business is booming, with all 15 games (i.e. football, basketball, baseball) reporting a YOY increase in usage and all but one seeing all-time highs for participation. The company’s 2016 pivot from individual game apps to a singular mobile application that housed all 15 games is the catalyst for the most recent results. Prior to the migration, ESPN allocated most of its resources to its football game, neglecting the other 14 sports; with a singular platform, the company has been able to provide users with its best product across all sports. It’s estimated that more than 20 million people have played ESPN fantasy games within the last 12 months, a figure that has doubled since 2013, with half the growth occurring within the last year.
Howie Long-Short: More than a dozen daily fantasy companies (i.e. FanDuel, DraftKings) registered to do business in the State of Maryland after Comptroller Peter Franchot issued the state’s first-ever regulations on fantasy operators, back in January. (Note: the state’s General Assembly has no interest in making recommendations on the legality of daily fantasy sports). They’re hoping that the consensus is wrong, but it’s widely expect that the SCOTUS is going to declare that the federal government cannot prohibit states from authorizing legalized sports gambling. That would be a kill shot to the DFS industry as they can’t compete with in-game betting; but with Maryland currently allowing DFS companies to operate with paying a fee (VA & PA are charging $50K/license), there is little reason for them not to pursue short-term profits.
Fan Marino: FanDuel CEO and co-founder Nigel Eccles is leaving the company and has announced his intentions to launch an esports venture. From the outside, it appears that Eccles is leaving the ship before it sinks, but that isn’t the case. Plans for his exit began late last year after the company agreed to merge with DraftKings and it was decided he would not be CEO of the joint company. Former CFO Matt King will be taking over as FanDuel CEO.
Pro Sports Lack Female Franchise Owners
Back in early October, Laurene Powell Jobs acquired 20% of Monumental Sports & Entertainment; the company that owns the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals among other entities. The acquisition was noteworthy as just a handful of other females own American pro sports teams; a short list that includes Jeanie Buss (Lakers), Joan Tisch (NY Giants) and Ann Walton Kroenke (Rams, Nuggets). There are even fewer women in front office and coaching positions. None of the 4 major sports leagues currently employ a female GM and there has never been a female head coach.
Howie Long-Shot: Powell Jobs, the widow of the late Apple CEO, paid an estimated $500 million for her 20% stake; just a drop in the bucket for the 4th wealthiest woman on the planet (estimated net worth of $20 billion). In addition to the NBA’s Wizards and NHL’s Capitals, Powell gets ownership the WNBA’s Mystics, Capital One Arena (home of Caps/Wiz), the AFL’s Valor (Washington) and Brigade (Baltimore) franchises, EagleBank Arena (George Mason University) and the Kettler Capitals Iceplex (training facility).
Fan Marino: ESPN Baseball analyst Jessica Mendoza emceed the 34th Annual March of Dimes Sports Luncheon, presented by Ford, on Tuesday. JWS had the chance to get her thoughts on female sports ownership.
Mendoza: “Why not? It’s great to have women as decision makers because it’s a different way of thinking, sometimes. I think just having more diversity on anything is good, you just want to make sure it’s the right people. Don’t do it because it’s a woman, to check that box; do it because it’s the right people, who are passionately involved and know what they’re doing. People who care enough about the sport that to help grow it.”
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